It’s rare, these days, to find journalism as authentically and beautifully rendered as it is in La paloma y la ley, Lisette Poole’s first book. Herself a first generation American, who grew up surrounded by stories of her family’s life being shaped by waves of migration from Cuba to the US, Poole felt compelled to take the journey herself in 2016. The result is something she didn’t simply observe as an outsider, but something she survived, and ultimately, a book that tells the story of migration in a remarkable way – in a way that will change the way you think and feel about it forever…
Poole – who is equally as comfortable with a pen as she is with a camera – follows two women Marta and Liset, who left Cuba in May 2016 with no plan, just the name of a coyote—a human smuggler—scribbled on a piece of paper, and a dream to make it to the US. They hoped to arrive before the imminent end of “wet foot, dry foot,” a policy that fast-tracked Cubans to asylum and permanent residency. (This policy was eventually repealed by President Obama in 2017.)
Poole followed along on 51 days of this journey through 13 countries, across 10 borders and 6 days in the Darien Gap—a roadless stretch of jungle between Colombia and Panama. She posed as a migrant. There were terrifying experiences with smugglers, days without food and water and heart wrenching moments. She photographed on several formats including a smartphone, 35mm film and a GoPro. She has continued documenting Marta and Liset’s new lives in the United States in the three years since she made the journey with them.
Migration is one of the critical issues of our times, but the stories told are often hyper-dramatized, oversimplified, and rarely personal or intimate. La paloma y la ley upends these superficial narratives with one of the most comprehensive accounts of migration ever published. It is raw and intimate. The book renders the journey in all its danger, complexity and humanity. Poole uses ticket stubs, recipes, maps and scraps of paper with lists of things to pack in a way that helps the reader feel closer to the protagonists. While the images are journalistic in nature they never sway far from being poetic at the same time.
The title – La paloma y la ley – translates to “The Dove and the Law” and references the spirituality that is a common thread throughout the book. The dove symbolizes freedom and how the women seek out their dreams despite the laws and policies that put them at continual risk.
— Samantha Reinders